Saturday, February 25, 2012

From the archives

When reviewing old posts or interviews hindsight can be a curse. In this case, I think, it was a blessing. This piece from Thrift Culture Now delivered a message worthy of running again.

It’s a myth that frugal people never shop. People often think that to be thrifty one must swear off all spending unless it falls into the basic necessities sections of their budgets, and even then they must buy the cheapest versions of those basic necessities. I know I would often find myself battling my conscience, trying to resist the urge to spend while stifling my love for quality, stylish clothes and house wares. Then I found the blog, The Thrifty Chicks.

The Thrifty Chicks was created in late 2008, when four friends decided that they needed a creative outlet for their thrift shopping expertise and their desire to “build a more robust reuse market.” With the pen names, Ms. Shopping Golightly, Ms. Gently Used, Ms. Goodie Wilhelmina, and Ms. Modern Mommie, these women write about shopping in a way that dispels the falsehoods of frugality.

According to Amy (aka Ms. Shopping Golightly), people often confuse frugal living with great sacrifice and zero fun because they don’t understand the real meaning of the word.

“It appears that many misconstrue ‘frugality’ with ‘miserly’ which means to compromise, be stingy and parsimonious, connoting unhappiness in saving money. To be frugal, by simple definition, is to not be wasteful,” she explains. “By living thrift, we are not depraved.”

Just one read through the pages of this fun, informative, and thought-provoking blog, and a quick glance at the fantastic photos of Ms. Shopping Golightly and her family modeling their thrift store finds, and you will see that they certainly aren’t deprived. It’s shocking to read that the beautiful, quality clothing (Amy and her family often where brands like, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, and Hannah Andersson), furniture, kitchen wares, and toys that would cost one a small fortune to buy new, have been purchased for a few dollars at a variety of reuse venues including, thrift stores, garage sales, or online.

But don’t think, even for a minute, that this blog is only about light and fluffy shopping fun. Along with the great tips on how a frugal fashionista can find great deals, a strong and important message is conveyed; where you shop and how you shop has significant environmental and economic implications.

Amy explains that The Thrifty Chicks’ goal--to create a more robust reuse market--is heavily rooted in a desire to lighten the impact that the American new product market has on the environment. “Our current shopping behaviour costs a lot more than the price tag we see. It carries a heavy carbon footprint that no one’s fully deciphered. We know the calories in one stinkin’ pickle because the FDA regulates food labeling. But we’ve no idea the cost of manufacturing and shipping of a new pair of blue jeans made in China across the world to the U.S.,” Amy says. “The carbon footprint of our shopping is undeniably large and it continues to grow, even during a devastating recession. This makes no sense. Product reuse can significantly help lower the flow of cheap, new, energy intensive goods into the country.”

Making a conscious effort to buy from the reuse market not only helps to keep more stuff out of landfills and decreases the demand for goods that are environmentally damaging to produce, but the reuse market is also a lot easier on our wallets, and that’s good news for anyone who’s looking to save money.

Amy says she thinks that consumerism is completely out of whack in our society. We no longer give careful thought to our purchases, considering the quality and price of a particular item, but instead, we give in to impulse and buy things because they’re trendy or we think that it gives us a particular image. She refers to this consumption epidemic, and the marketing that draws us into it, as a dumbing-down of our culture. These days, even frugality is marketed.

“Save more, buy more. That is not a frugal practice,” says Amy. “For the honest frugal-natured consumer, money saved is just that--money saved, not spent.”
The way in which we’re spending—largely without thinking—has fueled the “economy of crap,” as Amy calls it (check out Amy’s thought-provoking post entitled, The Harbingers of Decline). Companies produce more and more stuff that adds no value to our lives and eventually ends up in landfills. The environment is more polluted and ravaged of resources, consumer debt rises, and the only ones who gain are corporations and Wall Street.

“Sometimes I dream of a rush of angry consumers tossing Homer Simpson Chia-Pet Heads, plastic singing fish, and chocolate fountains upon the trading floor in protest to all the crap that is created with a cause for profit, not need,” says Amy. “That’s my dark side.”

But even though it’s easy to point the finger and blame the producers of the crap, Amy knows that it’s consumers’ poor spending habits—what and where we buy--that ultimately keep the latest versions of the Chia-Pet in production. The ‘buy-more,’ or even ‘buy-more-than-you-can afford,’ mentality has definitely contributed to the growing levels of consumer debt in our society.

“It wasn’t that long ago credit cards were a hard-earned badge of honour and debt was a sign of disgrace. Now, credit cards rain on us like a ticker tape parade,” Amy says. “I cannot count the number of times my underage daughters have been pre-approved for credit cards in the mail.”

The Thrifty Chicks aim to wake-up consumers and teach them how to make better decisions when it comes to spending; where to spend and how to decide what’s worth spending money on. In particular, Amy says that she and the other women behind The Thrifty Chicks hope to “help young consumers learn more about being resourceful so that they will spend less and save more for something lasting in life like a home or advanced education, rather than the alleged ‘latest styles’ that change as soon as the clothes hit the racks.”

Amy offers some sound advice for how to improve your spending habits:

1) Learn to honour the value and not the cost: Amy says that this means stopping to consider whether or not an item fills a legitimate need or whether you’re only thinking about buying an item because it’s inexpensive. “Put an end to the super size, the more is better mentality and you’re off to a good start,” she says.

2) Learn how to identify quality: Amy says that “an ignorant shopper will spend more money,” so getting to know the feel of quality materials and looking for well-constructed clothing is a great money-saving skill. She recommends starting at the thrift stores, where you will find quality cashmere and silk, as well as less-desirable rayon and acrylic. You can feel the difference in the materials and will be more discerning when deciding what to purchase. Amy says she wore a black dress (that she purchased at a thrift store) inside out, on more than one occasion, because the quality was so high that she couldn’t tell which was the right way to wear it. She paid $5 for that dress.

3) Determine your ‘flinch point:’ Amy has a system that she uses when she’s thrift shopping to help her decide what she’s willing to buy. She says that her personal flinch point is $5, and if an item costs more than $5 then she thinks long and hard as to whether or not she will buy it. Only at thrift stores could the $5 flinch point makes sense. Compare that to regular, new market retail: “Imagine what it’s like to pick up a new jacket from Banana Republic with the $99.99 price tag still dangling next to the $5 Goodwill tag, only to stop at a major retailer on the way home and buy a tube of mascara for $9,” Amy says.

4) Purge: Amy says that a good look at the items in your closet could help to put your spending practices into perspective. Plus, if you haven’t worn something in a year, then chances are you’re not going to. Donate it to go Goodwill where it will resurface in the reuse market.

I’ve always been pretty good at saving, but it was spending that I needed to work on and I don’t mean that I needed to spend more. After reading some of the Thrifty Chicks' posts, I realized that I wasn’t always fulfilling my thrifty living mantra, not to mention doing my part for the planet. The cheapest option isn’t always the best option. The best option and, therefore, the best use of my money, is the clothing and the wares that are good quality and going to last. Only in the reuse market can you consistently find items that are both good quality and inexpensive.

38 comments:

Stacy said...

Thank you for this great post. I went to Goodwill last night and bought several skirts, shorts, tees, raincoat and a cute sweater for the kids, plus 2 sweaters for me and a dress and kids clue for $40. I got amazing brands and great quality for less than some places charge for 1 item.

Ru said...

It's absolutely true that even brands that were once considered quality have Walmarted into cheap Chinese crap that only *looks* good--for about 5 minutes. It's no better than what used to be called "fast fashion" (the equivalent of junk food). They are out to maximize profit and don't care if consumers want something better. On the other hand, since many, many people buying clothes now have grown up in the era of cheap, Chinese crap and don't have a memory of better things, their bar for quality is far lower.

About Goodwill and new stock dumping, many people know that Target is one place that does dump at GW. But it's not usually sold at any kind of discount - in fact, in some parts of the country (like mine), GW prices have risen so high that, seriously, you can buy new in some cases for LESS.

So, just like at the grocery, where they tried to dupe consumers who always bought larger containers to save money and began charging MORE for larger containers (if anyone has been assuming things are still the way they should be, don't! Compare prices), GW is pulling similar BS.

I'm getting so sick of purveyors of whatever trying to stick it to us so brazenly. Whatever happened to fair goods for fair prices?

Beth said...

Prices at my favorite thrifts have gone up $1 on many items. Another magic number for household items is $6.99. Ru is right in that the pricing is approaching clearance rack values. $1 may not seem much, but it translates into a 25% increase on many, many classes of items -- anywhere else and it wouldn't be acceptable. I appreciate that prices have to change, but these places also serve low-income families, not just folks crusin' for a deal, and these increases are tough, particularly in places where there have been layoffs, only low-paying jobs without benefits, etc. Considering that some of our local "community" orgs are having to recruit addicts from other counties and surrounding states to fill their grant-funded programs along with these high prices, it makes me wonder who they are really serving...mostly it seems like it must be their own interests.

Carrie said...

Ms. Golightly,
I saw you and your daughters at the outlets on Tuesday! It was surreal to recognize you! BTW all Ms. Golightly fans, she looked glam and fabulous and did not disappoint. I was there with my daughters and decided I might be crossing some kind of privacy line by approaching you (plus I'm a tad shy). Anyway, please keep posting. You've encouraged me to think differently as well as reinforce values that I already hold but sometimes question or lose track of because of the pervasiveness of the culture of outrageous spending and instant gratification surrounding me. Your voice offers sense, refinement and inspiration among the din of loud, crass voices shouting "go to the mall, fill your bags with crap, you will be fulfilled!"

Shopping Golightly said...

Carrie,

Oh dear! Busted in person shopping at the outlets. Hope I wasn’t too cranky. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been in the conventional market and was really taken aback at how aggressive sales people have become. We went into one store and three sales people assaulted us in no less than about four minutes. I’m not used to that. If I know the folks at thrift, we talk about friends and family, not what can they sell me. Such different environments. Also, in one store my head injury really came into play – the music was louder than what I used to hear in the clubs in Chicago. No, I wasn't a cranky, old lady about it. Even my ten-year-old Little Pie wanted out because of the music.

Shopping Golightly said...

Ru,

In Denver, Target sells close out and returned merchandise to thrift. This usually appears as blue ticket colors and usually hints as why blue tickets don't go on sale.

In my opinion, this is a complete rip off by Target. The items they sell to thrift are supposed to be in new condition and - from my personal experience - are not. I don't make many returns to thrift but I've returned several Target purchased items. It's so bad, I no longer look over blue ticketed items.

Lisa E said...

I try to steer clear of the target merchandise unless it is a linen. I bought it GW began buying it by the pallet but learned quickly that most are broken or incomplete in some way. The money I save by almost entirely shopping GW is astounding. I do need to learn that I do not have to buy everythig that is a good buy though. Glad to have found your blog.

Joy said...

Well...I just watched the premiere of GCB on ABC and...How many folks are telling you how much you look like ANNIE POTTS??? (A sincere compliment!) Holy Moly, Shopping GoLightly, from some of your pictures, you ARE a much younger Annie Potts...who, btw, was one of my favorites in Designing Women, in the 80's!!! Now, in
GCB she's got a BIG Texas accent & I know there isn't any such thing in Denver...So, forgive me - Cause from now on, I'm reading your posts, "with a Texas accent"!!

Shopping Golightly said...

Joy,

Annie Potts? Okay I can see it.

I watched a PBS show on the history of women and Designing Women and Murphy Brown were discussed for the age of the Network Power Woman in the 80s. They came a long way from dear June with The Beaver.

I do ask that if a southern accent be applied to my writing, I would aspire it to be a Savannah accent. Modern Mommie, one of the Chicks who's often busy chasing her three year old about, went to Savannah School of Design. From what I've learned, my kooky habits would be right at home in Savannah.

Cheers!

aleahy said...

Your post was right on target. I rarely buy retail. Usually I go to my local Savers or consignment store. Savers has raised its prices so much that my consignment store can usually beat it, and the consignment store often has 20% off shirts, or shoes etc. My youngest daughter has become quite a fashionista this way-We have found some great deals including like new volleyball shoes (i didn't even know there was such a thing) we were looking for sneakers, a North Face fleece plus dresses-how can anyone shop in the mall is beyond me!

RETRO REVA said...

Thanks for this- i swear i attended a debtor's annonymous meeting 3 week ago due to my thrifting habits!!!!
Thanks again :)
Reva

Anonymous said...

I have reached the point where almost everything I own is thrifted. I despise shopping malls and was shocked recently to see how flimsy the fabrics are now in new clothing. As my grandmother would have said "it's so thin you could spit through it". Horrid - I wouldn't even wear them at thrift prices!
And I must admit to feeling somewhat virtuous that I am using something that would otherwise have been thrown out. :)
Nancy

Saul said...

I got amazing brands and great quality for less than some places charge for 1 item.
Cheap Other For Sale

Anonymous said...

Sure miss your posts! Are you done blogging? :-(

Beth said...

Ditto.

Anonymous said...

Miss your posts! Please post again soon!

erin said...

i miss this blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Missing your posts and hoping this is
just a temporary rest for you. Love your attitude regarding thrift...I have learned a lot from you. Many
thanks.

Marie

Anonymous said...

Hello...I am writing because I am not sure what I should expect from this site and wondered if I am using it correctly. I keep looking for links to current articles written by the four principle participants. Instead I find sparse and random writings.

I am a thrift shopper from way back and still forage the goods at the many local thrift stores in my location.
I am leaning more toward the independent church affiliated stores now tho' because their pricing and the condition of the items is much better, and the volunteers are always friendly and cheerful and the stores clean and well organized.
I also buy at local estate sales when the merchandise is clean, of good quality and priced fairly.
I still miss the old Junior League stores, those were the best!
I also shop online and have not been disappointed so far with items I buy online.
I wrote an email to the director of Goodwill a few years ago asking about the higher prices and the now notorious "designer" racks that sported even higher inflated prices.
The response was that there had been few price increases over the years and that they were justified for that reason...there was no "list" of things that made the increases necessary or purposeful.
If the increases are going to support their mission of training and securing employment for the disabled I can understand the need for increases, but not when the items are torn, dirty, missing buttons, have broken zippers, have been shrunk, are not in proper working order, have missing parts and in general need to be recycled or sadly, sent to the landfill.
I would love to see Goodwill, the DAV and other large NFP's respect their buyers enough to inspect things before putting them out for the buyers to see and it would not hurt to see a little more cleanliness in the stores in general.

Anonymous said...

I really miss reading your posts. I check your page each week hoping for an update!

Marigene said...

I have missed your posts, too...hope to see you posting again, soon!

texmimi said...

are you done w/ this blog?

Beth said...

You got a new job. You're busy with kids, family, new business opps, and ideas flooding in. All to the good. But you're missed (and some of your followers are, understandably concerned.) Need to shelve the tc blog for a while? Fine. Want some kind of help with it? I'm sure it's yours for the asking.

Katie Moore said...

Hi!

I stumbled across your blog and love what you have done with it. My name is Katie and I have recently been writing and researching about a variety of topics that coincide with motherhood and the overall theme of your blog. The research that I focus on in these articles are the benefits of proper nutrition and exercise when going through pregnancy as well as various other pregnancy related subjects. That being said, I was wondering if you ever accept guest posts? I would love to send you an article because I feel this fresh perspective on pregnancy and motherhood will benefit your readers tremendously. This is an important message to get out there so please let me know if you are interested in seeing it and sharing it with your readers.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Freebies said...

Wow, it looks like you've got a lot of people interested in what you've written and hoping for more. I hope your OK and pick it back up soon.

Coupon Database said...

I look forward to hearing more - I too hope you are OK. :)

Ray Grimm said...

Really like this website, this really helps and very useful.Thank You.

Regards,
Ray Grimm

Anonymous said...

please update us--miss you!

Theresa said...

If you are done with this blog could you write one final farewell post?
Hope all is well.

svelteSTUFF said...

WE MISS YOU!!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS 8-)

chicksinger said...

Ditto to the last few months' worth of comments. Would love to hear your voice again!

Matt York said...

Amazing Thrifty Chicks.

Jess Holmes said...

What a great post. I love thrift shopping, but I never used to consider how it good it actually is for the environment. I got one of these folding grocery carts too, and virtually never use plastic now. Every little bit helps.

Anonymous said...

Come Back! At least give us an update.

Kim said...

We MISS you!! What happened?? :-(

Fraz Hakim said...

Have a very good shopping blog. I really appreciate you for this good work keep it up. You can also find a very good shopping website at Classified shopping website Or Post classified ads world wide

Anonymous said...

Wish you would update! Hope everything is okay.

zunaira mehar said...

Generally I like to and get my mix of Vitamin E from pills. While I would prefer to via a good meal plan it can be even more

difficult to at times.
Cardsharing Server